This is part of a series of interest pieces for complex, geographically-distributed nonprofits

Every nonprofit organization has a mission that drives and defines the good work it accomplishes on a daily basis. Communicating that mission message in a consistent way is the charge of every individual at that nonprofit. Whether coming from the national office or one of its local affiliates, there should be little variation in that message. From most donors’ perspectives they are giving to an organization, not the national office or the local affiliate chapter and they expect that organization to understand who they are, why they give and to continue to share reasons why they should keep supporting the mission of the nonprofit.

How data can impact the core message

Sharing data, as basic as it sounds, can be very challenging for nonprofit organizations that have a national office and local affiliates. A lot of this challenge stems from a lack of data sharing or an organization-wide CRM that is accessible to everyone. How can a nonprofit understand donor behavior and preferences if they can’t see all of the different ways a donor supports them? How can a consistent message be communicated if not every employee is on board and understands what the message is and why it’s important?

Improving the constituent experience

Here are some basic things to consider when working to solidify a strong communication plan and a consistent experience for all of your donors:

  1. Toolkits and time: An organization needs to first communicate internally on its core messaging and marketing touch points so all offices know the messaging to be shared with its supporters. National organizations should provide all internal staff with target messaging, tactics and how-tos through toolkits that are easily accessible. Time should be spent explaining any changes in communication plans or branding messages. Share the data behind the research!
  2. Sharing data: Without knowing all of the ways a donor supports your organization it’s hard to craft tailored communications or even understand all the ways they support you. If someone is giving both locally and nationally, or across multiple programs and channels, you want to know this information and use it to inform your marketing strategy. Understanding these details allows you to communicate in a more personalized way about things that are important to an individual supporter. With so many data sources that exist at a nonprofit, accessing all of the data in a meaningful way can be overwhelming, but there are small steps you can take today to begin sharing data between affiliates and the national office. As an example, direct response donors can make great local event invitees and vice versa. Consider sharing this information on a monthly basis within a few markets to test this hypothesis. This also allows the individual donor to become exposed to other ways they can support your organization.
  3. Shared goals: A great way to help promote data sharing and marketing core messages is to create collaborative, cross functional performance goals. Challenge individuals to add annual goals that fall outside of their department and support the organization’s strategic plan. Using the examples above, how can the national web team support local programs through digital properties? How can the local affiliates help meet revenue goals through direct response or planned giving channels?

Collaboration that benefits you and your donors

By implementing some of these ideas or others you may have, you can begin to create a more collaborative working environment at your nonprofit that drives a consistent experience, meeting your donors’ expectations whether they are giving to the national or local affiliate office.


Lisa Wettstaedt is a Solutions Consultant with Blackbaud’s Enterprise Customer Business Unit.

Current and prospective nonprofit clients rely on Lisa to identify novel, effective and efficient paths to improved fundraising through business intelligence reporting and marketing automation. Prior to joining Blackbaud Lisa spent more than 10 years managing highly successful direct response and donor services teams for large, national nonprofits.

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